THUNDER BAY – Sports – The SIJHL Bill Salonen Cup is set! The Superior International Junior Hockey League’s league championship series for the Bill Salonen Cup gets underway this evening at Northwoods Credit Union Arena in Cloquet, Minn., at 7:30 p.m. at the top ranked Minnesota Wilderness take on the No. 2 Fort Frances Lakers in game 1 of a best-of-seven affair.
SIJHL Bill Salonen Cup
The following is a preview of the series.
The series will alternate games with the Wilderness holding home ice advantage for games 1, 3 and if necessary 5 and 7.
As for the Lakers, they will don the home jerseys for games 2, 4 and, if required, 6 at Ice for Kids Arena in Fort Frances April 14, 19 and 22.
All seven games have a start time of 7:30 p.m. with each contest slated to have a four-man officiating crew of two referees and two linesmen.
Bill Salonen Cup schedule
Game 1: Friday, April 12 @ Minnesota 7:30 p.m. (Northwoods Credit Union Arena)
Game 2: Sunday, April 14 @ Fort Frances 7:30 p.m. (Ice for Kids Arena)
Game 3: Wednesday, April 17 @ Minnesota 7:30 p.m. (Northwoods Credit Union Arena)
Game 4: Friday, April 19 @ Fort Frances 7:30 p.m. (Ice for Kids Arena)
Game 5*: Saturday, April 20 @ Minnesota 7:30 p.m. (Northwoods Credit Union Arena)
Game 6*: Monday, April 22 @ Fort Frances 7:30 p.m. (Ice for Kids Arena)
Game 7*: Wednesday, April 24 @ Minnesota 7:30 p.m. (Northwoods Credit Union Arena)
Over the course of the regular season the two sides met nine times with the Wilderness winning six times while losing twice in regulation as well as once in a shootout.
In fact the Wilderness rolled to their third straight regular season title and have not lost a game in regulation time since all the way back on Oct. 24 on a night where the Lakers defeated them by a 4-3 score at Northwoods Credit Union.
Fort Frances handed the Wilderness two of their three regulation setbacks and one of two shootout losses.
This marks the second consecutive year the Wilderness and Lakers have met in the SIJHL final with the Wilderness winning their second consecutive Salonen Cup title last season in a series that required a full seven games before a winner could be determined.
The Wilderness advanced to their third consecutive SIJHL final after sweeping the Minnesota Iron Rangers in four games.
As for the Lakers the moved on to their second straight league championship series in dramatic fashion scoring twice late in the final few minutes, including the equalizer by Jon Carlson with just 15 seconds remaining, before winning 3-2 in overtime in the seventh and deciding game of their semifinal series vs. the rival Dryden Ice Dogs.
Jordan Christianson of Fort Frances leads his team and all skaters in postseason scoring with 11 points on five goals and six assists, which includes netting the game 7 winner in OT against Drdyen.
Carlson is No. 2 offensively with eight points, which also leads all SIJHL defenceman in playoff offensive numbers.
Kevin Kurm is third on the squad and tied for third overall with seven points.
Jeremy Johnson leads the Wilderness in postseason numbers with eight points.
Right behind him are Pizza Hut player of the year Mike Dietrich, SIJHL rookie of the year Jake Larson and Jordan Shockley as that trio both have recorded seven points each.
The SIJHL’s top goaltender award recipient in Gordy Defiel of the Wilderness has continued where he left off in the regular season where he led all league netminders as well as all puck stoppers from across the entire Canadian Junior Hockey League in both goals-against average and save percentage.
In the playoffs Defiels is a perfect 4-0 with a SIJHL-best 1.75 average along with a front-running .941 save mark.
As for Talor Joseph, the go to guy between the pipes for the Lakers so far in the playoffs, he has a 4-2 record and sports a 2.67 GAA and a .909 save mark.
The SIJHL champion will then move on to represent the league at the Dudley-Hewitt Cup Central Canada Jr. A tournament April 30 through May 4 in North Bay.
Joining them will be the host of the four-team event, the North Bay Trappers, along with the Soo Thunderbirds, who also qualified as the second Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League representative as those two sides will meet for the NOJHL championship.
That best-of-seven final gets underway tonight in North Bay with Sault Ste. Marie entering a defending league and Dudley-Hewitt Cup champs.
Rounding out the DHC field will be the title holder of the Ontario Junior Hockey League.
The OJHL title series for the Buckland Cup features the Newmarket Hurricanes going up against the St. Michael’s Buzzers.
Newmarket had jumped out to 2-0 lead in that best-of-seven affair winning game 1 by a 1-0 score Wednesday on the road before earning a 4-3 victory in overtime at home on Thursday.
Awaiting the Dudley-Hewitt winner will be a berth in the Royal Bank Cup Canadian national Jr. A championship May 11-19 in Summerside, P.E.I.
Past SIJHL champions
2010–Fort William North Stars
2009–Fort William North Stars
2008–Dryden Ice Dogs
2006–Fort William North Stars
2005–Fort William North Stars
2004–Fort William North Stars
2003–Fort Frances Borderland Thunder
2002–Dryden Ice Dogs